New research from the UK Education Executive has found that funding challenges faced by British schools are driving a need for significant change in the procurement process.
The study, Smarter procurement; a practical guide to improving value and efficiency, makes the case for ‘smarter procurement,’ a term encompassing a more strategic, rather than tactical, approach, as in strategic sourcing, as well as procuring on a ‘whole school’ basis.
The study includes a survey of 216 School Business Managers (SBMs), senior practitioners who preside over procurement in schools, polling their thoughts on how and where cost reductions could be achieved, how procurement processes could be streamlined, and who should be involved in that form of procurement transformation.
The respondents represented the range of school settings and the breadth of the SBM role.
70% of respondents cited funding as the single greatest challenge faced by British state-run schools.
73% ‘strongly agreed’ that their school was having to do more with less money and resources each successive year.
Concerning streamlining procurement, SBMs favoured the following:
- 44% believed an automated procurement process was key
- 40% wanted the ability to complete repeat orders swiftly
- 32% favoured encouraging staff to add to an online ‘shopping basket’
- 30% favoured the pre-approval of vendors as a helpful step
- 23% favoured better purchase scheduling
The study is forthright in its recognition that in the context of the current, and foreseeable, fiscal landscape for UK schools, procurement has become not only essential but pivotal.
The challenges faced by SBMs about procurement, the report states, are more than technical.
All were facing not merely the challenge of ever-tightening budgetary constraints, but insufficient time to concentrate on purchasing decisions, which was hampering the goal of achieving year-on-year cost reductions.
In conclusion, the report advocates making procurement in UK schools fit for purpose by developing smarter procurement and makes key recommendations on how to achieve this.